Idolatry: The Death of Reason


Moshe Ben-Chaim




Continuing in Maimonides’ Laws of Star Worship 1:3, we find another interesting statement. Maimonides teaches that although Abraham worshipped idolatry at a young age, his mind constantly pondered the physical world and the world of ideas, until he recognized “his Creator”. But before this point in his law, Maimonides states that Abraham realized that there is G-d, that He is one, and He caused everything that exists, and guides the laws of all matter, and no other god exists, but Him.


Maimonides now makes a point:


“And he (Abraham) ‘knew’ that the entire world had erred, and the thing which caused them to make this error, is that they served the stars and statues, until they lost the truth from their knowledge.”


The problem with this statement is that Abraham had no teacher or one to inform him of anything, as Maimonides says earlier. Therefore, Abraham had no knowledge of the state of these idolaters’ minds before this era. How then, can Maimonides state that Abraham knew that idolatry “caused them to lose the truth”? Abraham was in no position to make an assessment of these idolaters’ earlier knowledge. He had “no teacher” who might have passed this information to him. You might say that he spoke with others, and they told him this. However, this is not what Maimonides says. Maimonides says that Abraham figured this out on his own. We must understand how this can be.


But we also must figure out how idolatry can cause the worshippers to forget something. Does this make any sense? How can worshipping statues or stars cause a memory lapse? However, this latter question is predicated on an assumption; we are assuming that what these idolaters forgot – was content. Meaning, we assume that when Maimonides writes, “until they lost the truth from their knowledge” that Maimonides refers to some ‘quantity’ of knowledge. However, this cannot be, as we said earlier; Abraham had no means to know what these people knew in earlier times. There remains only one other possibility, as to what it means that they forgot the “truth”.


I believe the “truth” here, refers to the ability to ‘think rationally’. “Truth” refers to the “quality” of thinking. Meaning, somehow, idolatry has the ability to remove one from using his critical faculty, his reason. One may worship idolatry for so long, that his entire apparatus, which sets him apart from all other creatures – his intelligence – becomes numb, and useless. The question is, how does this happen?


Abraham was brilliant. He saw an entire culture before his eyes, completely and unanimously steeped in idolatry. No one questioned the rationale behind such acts; the same tree one would use for firewood was also carved into god, and was bowed to. (See Haftora of Vayikra) Abraham put two and two together. He said to himself:


“Idolatry is a powerful emotion, making no sense. It must be responsible for obscuring reason from working within the hearts of these people. Idolatry has conditioned this culture to ‘believe’, and not use reason. Years of unquestioned, blind faith had removed man from thinking.”


This is what Maimonides meant by “And he (Abraham) ‘knew’ that the entire world had erred, and the thing which caused them to make this error, is that they served the stars and statues, until they lost the truth from their knowledge.” They lost the ‘ability’ for arriving at truth, not that they lost bits of knowledge.


I believe Maimonides described Christianity to a tee. They too are idolatrous, as they worship man. Many worship statues. We see that Christianity’s adherents can reiterate verses very well. But these verses contradict reason – and they don’t even detect this grave error! Startling! Words can emanate and the speaker does not hear them. Christianity uses “blind faith” as their motto, as if this reasonably defends their great passion. But truthfully, they ignore reason, in hopes they will be sin-free. They abandon reason, in favor of that which is even more unreasonable. Maimonides exposes the underlying flaw, which allows people to dupe themselves, and others. This flaw is the abandonment of searching for what is real, and blindly accepting what is rehearsed verbally en masse. Years of such behavior, and people no longer have a connection to reason. However, reason cuts through fallacy as a sword cuts through air. Just as air poses no obstacle to the blade, false religions are of no impediment to reason. Reason effortlessly unmasks the falsehoods of Christianity and other religions, although they all dissemble themselves as truth.


Over the past few weeks, we have addressed Christianity’s flaws. Many emails have come in from both Jews and Christians. The Jews, surprisingly, were asking that we tone down this whole discussion. However, we responded that we must follow the Rabbis, who did not allow other issues to mitigate their concern of false religions seeping into ours. Many Christians wrote in with an unconditional “love” regardless of our words. Politely, I asked them what they love about our Jewish religion, whose Jesus-rejecting adherents, they say, will burn in hell. I have not received any answer, but they admitted I would burn in hell too. They love me, knowing I reject their man-god and that I will burn in hell. If this response does not clearly display contradictory thinking, I don’t know what does. If this is what Christianity produces, i.e., a people who will contradict themselves without blinking an eye, I fail to see why others follow such nonsense.


I appeal to our Christian readers: you have made a good step believing that both Judaism and Christianity cannot simultaneously be G-d’s will. Now, as you use reason in other areas of your life, in selecting schools for your children, professions, and locations to live, use this reason in your religious sphere as well. Instead of parroting what all others parrot, stop, consider what you say, and ask why this most important sphere of you life should not also include reason. Follow the very prophet that you stand by:


“He does not take it to his heart, he has no knowledge and no understanding to say, “half (of the tree) I have burned in fire, and even baked on its coals bread and I roasted meat and ate, and the remainder (of the tree) shall I make into an abomination? To the trunk of a tree shall I prostrate?” (Isaiah 44:19)


Isaiah rebukes the idol worshippers. Here, he shows their inherent contradiction, in serving idols made from the same tree, which they also use as firewood. Half they cook with, and half they bow to saying, “Rescue me for you are my god.” (ibid, 17)  Isaiah is saying, “Use reason”. He concludes this section saying, “…he does not say, ‘is there not falsehood in my right hand?” (ibid, 20)


Isaiah depicts the idolaters and those who believe in man-gods as living by lies. By saying, “is there not falsehood in my right hand”, Isaiah means to say that the idolaters lie to themselves. So too, you Christians who have no reasoning, take a lesson from the very Prophet you quote. Isaiah demands we all use reason. This is his very simple message. And be honest. Although you fool yourself that Jesus is meant by a few inexplicit verses, do not G-d and the prophets constantly adjourn the Jews to keep the Torah of Moses? Is this not more predominant throughout all of the Bible and the Prophets? Don’t hang you fate on a few distorted readings, and they are quite far-fetched. Read G-d’s words honestly.


Maimonides was a genius by anyone’s standards. He stated that Abraham uncovered the truth, that over time, idolatry and blind faith systems remove reason from one’s mind. Use reason, before it is no longer available to you.